Genesis and Rashad think they know each other well. This lovable couple jokes, knows each other’s likes, quirks, habits, and dreams, and yet in one night, they start to see each other in a new and unfamiliar way.
With multi-layer direction by Jacqui Parker, Lyric Stage Company presents Loy A. Webb’sThe Light through June 26 at Lyric Stage Company live and in person in Boston, Massachusetts. The show is 70 minutes long with no intermission and is Lyric Stage’s final show of the season. This show contains mature topics. Click here for more information and tickets.
Elmer Martinez’s expressive lighting enhances the evocative nature of this production. It is a meaningful show hinging on the strengths of its leads and Yewande Odetoyinbo as school principal Genesis and Dominic Carter as firefighter Rashad are more than up to the task. While both characters are stubborn, Odetoyinbo’s grounded and witty nature as Genesis strikes an important balance with Carter’s optimistic and playful sense of humor as Rashad. Carter is charismatically charming and leads in some of the production’s funniest moments while Odetoyinbo as Genesis is best as the tension builds. It is a joy to watch as they zing each other, tease, dream about the future, debate, and share some of their most treasured memories together. Their innate and compelling chemistry attract such a fondness for this couple that it is easy to get lost in what seems like their complete compatibility.
However, realizations and revelations run deep on this special night. Webb’s clever script invites the audience into this couple’s intimate relationship in all its charms with some passing notes of underlying resentment while carefully laying its cards on the table and raising the stakes through every twist and turn. Odetoyinbo and Carter are a true force as they approach the humor, tension and the difficult and serious topics with compassion.
The Light makes the most out of its 70 minute run time. It has good pacing and escalates quickly, fueled by Odetoyinbo and Carter’s natural chemistry as the show veers toward its powerful conclusion.
Lyric Stage Company presents Loy A. Webb’s The Light through June 26 at Lyric Stage Company live and in person in Boston, Massachusetts. The show is 70 minutes long with no intermission and is Lyric Stage’s final show of the season. This show contains mature topics. Click here for more information and tickets.
Though I’m not a fan of The Crown, the intriguing Oscar-nominated Spencer is new on Hulu and I was too curious about the polarizing acting abilities of Kristen Stewart to miss this film. Not only does the film focus on the tension, the princess’s fragility, and her deteriorating marriage, but what is deemed a fable of a tragedy taught me a bit about the monarchy’s strict regime before heading out to see the Company Theatre’s production of The Audience.
Directed by Steve Dooner and the inspiration behind the Netflix’s hit drama The Crown, Company Theatre presents Peter Morgan’sThe Audience through Sunday, February 20 at Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. The show is 2 hours and 15 minutes including an intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
The Audience is named after an important room inside Buckingham Palace where Queen Elizabeth II discusses a wide range of topics with various Prime Ministers over the Years. As Queen, she must live up to certain standards to have these meetings on a certain day for a certain length of time and keeping discussions strictly to Cabinet, Parliament, and Current Affairs. Needless to say, conversations often take a turn in unexpected directions. The show delivers light and subtle humor throughout the production, but this is mostly a historical drama.
Carol Laing Stearns portrays the sharp and coolheaded English monarch with sophistication, grace, and underlying prowess (with her royal corgis in tow). She dryly describes herself as “a postage stamp with a pulse,” but we all know better. Stearns has a natural and likable presence, but also stoic and headstrong. She rarely lets her emotions get the better of her, even when she is commenting on it. It is interesting to see the quirks and tenacity, navigating her age progression well. However in a rare moment, thanks to the keen lighting design of Dean Palmer. Jr, the spotlight shines on Stearns in a moment of vulnerability, and it is difficult not be entirely moved by it.
Ryan Barrow’s elegant set is flanked with wall-to-wall gold trim, historical portraits, and a sparkling chandelier shining overhead. Charismatic Rama Rodriguez as Equerry acts as half narrator and half historian, sharing the relevance of this special room and its astute history. From a tartan skirt to the dapper suits on each Prime Minister to the very replica of Queen Elizabeth II’s white dress and royal sash symbolizing her position as the Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, costume designer Elizabeth Cole Sheehan has a meticulous eye for historically-accurate regal flair.
The depiction of Elizabeth II’s flashes of childhood is handled in a unique and insightful way though at first it can be a little confusing. Young Elizabeth, portrayed as a precocious and inquisitive old soul by Samantha LeBretton, struggles with her destiny and the separation of her public and private figure. Although she is unsure of her place exactly, she feigns surefootedness, but not without questions.
Chris DiOrio as Harold Wilson is the most sympathetic among the Prime Ministers while Julie Dennis as Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher comes in like a lion and remains one. The tension between Stearns and Dennis as a compelling Thatcher is quite thrilling to witness as two people with much in common can barely agree. DiOrio as Wilson thrives in the role, his strong Northern accent only accentuates his likability.
Among the many political, social, and personal topics addressed, the clash between royal rituals and traditions with modernization and talk of the end of the monarchy is always looming. However, The Audience presents a bigger picture and depicts just why Queen Elizabeth II’s, who just celebrated her Platinum Jubilee this month and is the longest reigning English monarch in history, secret to her longevity reaches far beyond her wit.
Company Theatre presents Peter Morgan’s The Audience through Sunday, February 20 at Company Theatre, 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts. The show is 2 hours and 15 minutes including an intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
It is a production so engrossing that when it ends, you find yourself asking, “Then what happens?”
This is not to say that this insightful one man production, Mr. Parentis incomplete by any means, but the essence of this thought can be found in Maurice Emmanuel Parent‘s charismatic and absorbing storytelling. This autobiographical and semi-interactive recollection of a life-changing period in Parent’s compelling history features amusing and captivating characters that will keep you invested in his journey, eager to find out what is next.
Seamlessly directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, Lyric Stage Company continues the timely production Mr. Parent by Melinda Lopez through February 6 at Lyric Stage Company in Boston, Massachusetts. It will also be available for streaming from February 7 through February 20. This show runs 90 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Within a colorful and empty classroom by Cristina Todesco, the aptly-named Mr. Parent manages to cover a great deal in its limited time frame from the state education system to struggling families to struggling teachers to desegregation during a pivotal time in Mr. Parent’s life approached with the kind of heart and humor that comes from experience. Inspirational, educational, and complex, Mr. Parent also begs a significant question that many people face every day: How do I pursue my passion while still making a decent living?
Working in the arts, this quest is close to my heart. In order to do what one loves, one may have to supplement that journey with additional job or jobs to make it all work. It is a journey of sacrifice, more than likely a lack of sleep, and an overwhelming desire towards that dream goal, however means it may take to get there. For some, taking this avenue may create another dream realized.
Maurice Immanuel Parent as himself is a struggling actor hoping to find success, but quickly realizes that doing so requires supplemental income. He finds it in the form of teaching. Having seen him perform as Cardinal Richelieu in Greater Boston Stage Company and Front Porch Arts Collective’sThe Three Musketeers, Parent has a wealth of talent. He is a charismatic presence onstage and it is easy to see the drive and heart he puts into his work. Here, Maurice Emmanuel Parent’s personal account reflects that talent in spades.
It has as much heart as adventure from hyena auditions to a sneaky hoodie to recollections of shows he encourages his parents not to see, Parent recounts the unsettled and unpredictable life of teaching and acting which includes plenty of realizations along the way with bite, humor, and in times of distress, unmitigated honesty. For example, in two particularly moving moments, Mr. Parent describes in anguish what it is like to see his bright students from low income families struggle for their basic needs and enduring the scare of a lockdown. He navigates scenario after scenario invoking an intensity and desperation to succeed in a job that he hopes will meet his needs, but wondering if he may be in over his head. Seemingly sterling opportunities almost always have its challenges and Mr. Parent shows that we all have much to learn.
Lyric Stage Company continues Mr. Parent through February 6 live and in person at Lyric Stage Company in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Michael Hammond may change the way you look at life. Are you afraid of the audition? He’ll show you a way to succeed. Having a bad day? He’ll show you a way to lift your spirits. As the new Director of Development at the Company Theatre, a role he calls a lifelong dream, his positivity may help others the way Company Theatre has helped him since childhood.
The Company Theatre, located at 30 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, joyously held their first indoor production since their absorbing musical, Fun Home early last year. Rock of Ages was an edgy and energetic rock jukebox musical that took place last month. See Rock of Ages review here and click here for Sleepless Critic’s full podcast.
Sleepless Critic: Please tell me what it was like to be back in the indoor setting for Rock of Ages.
Michael Hammond: It’s so fantastic. It’s emotional, exciting, and the energy in the air was just electric. You were there. You saw it. People were cheering and screaming.
The show starts with Sally Forrest’s voice doing her standard announcement which we are all accustomed to hearing. It was such a welcome back and to hear her voice and I think people cheered over her entire announcement. Just to be back inside, hear that familiar voice, and to know we’re about to see a really fun and exciting show was just great.
SC: I know this was the opening weekend for indoor theatre, but you did have some outdoor theatre experiences like Avenue Q before this show.
MH: Avenue Q was incredible. The kids were so talented. Their commitment to what they were doing and their characters were dynamic. It was Broadway-type quality coming out of these kids on the outdoor stage of the Company Theatre out back. We have had other things like Divas with a Twist and Donny Norton’s band,The New Band there. That’s been a really nice addition to the Company Theatre as well as now being back inside.
SC: So getting back to Rock of Ages, you had your opening weekend and you felt like everything went as smooth as can be?
MH: Absolutely! So many new people in this show and as is typical of the Company Theatre, they are already saying this is my new home. It’s this overwhelming feeling that you’re home and you found your family at the Company Theatre even if you did one show and you never come back, it still feels that way. I’ve been involved since I was 19 years old.
SC: I was going to say that you are familiar with that feeling.
MH: I’m very familiar with that feeling. I don’t know what my life would have been like without Company Theatre. I would have taken a completely different path.
SC: It’s hard to replicate the kind of friendly and welcoming atmosphere you have when you’re in theatre.
MH: Absolutely! Such a nice group of people too that do theatre especially the teens. They just stay out of trouble. They have a common goal they are working towards and they enjoy each other’s company and make lifelong friendships. I can’t say enough about it.
I’ve just seen so many kids, even this summer just come through the doors and they leave just completely changed and confident and more themselves. It’s just a beautiful thing to witness.
SC: When you said you had been with Company Theatre pretty much your whole life, you said it was a lifelong dream to do something like this as the Director of Development now. I’m really excited for you.
MH: Thank you! Like a lot of people during the pandemic, you start to question ‘Am I doing what I want with my life? Is this fulfilling and rewarding?’ Like many people, I came to the conclusion that what I was doing was not for me anymore.
It had run its course and I needed something new and Jordie Saucerman, one of the founding partners of the Company Theatre, had passed away and that really accelerated my thought process because her wake was attended by so many people. I thought ‘Look at all the lives that she touched.’ The impact that Jordie had on people is immeasurable. Even if I make just a little sliver of that impact on people, I would feel great about my life. That set the wheels turning.
I approached Zoe one day and said, ‘I will be your janitor. I basically don’t care what you have me do, if there is a spot for me here, I am coming.’ That seed was planted awhile ago and it sort of blossomed into Director of Development. I’m so excited to try new things and just give back what I got from this theatre.
SC: Not only that, but you have a similar positive way about you like Jordie had. Where do you get your positive outlook from? Where do you draw it from considering I’ve also seen videos of you on social media?
I’m not attempting to fill Jordie’s shoes in any way. That’s not a task that anyone could accomplish. She is a unique individual who I feel is still around in the atmosphere and in the joy of the theatre. If I’m upset or have a bad day, it makes me feel better to brighten someone else’s day. That is such a nice feeling to buy someone in line a coffee or just compliment someone or encourage someone to do something they didn’t think they could do. I live off of that. If I am having the worst day of my life and I do something nice for somebody, I instantly feel recharged. I think that’s how I basically go through life.
SC: I hear that from a lot of comedians as well. It makes them feel better to make someone else laugh even if they are upset or having issues.
MH: I tried standup comedy once. I did it more for the writing aspect, but I did perform. It was an interesting experience because you come out onstage and you look at a sea of faces who want you to succeed because if you succeed, they have a fantastic time. You have an overwhelming amount of support that you just want to hold onto and it was an incredible feeling.
SC: What did you did before this that you wanted to walk away from and join the Company Theatre?
MH: I was the station manager at a local cable television station. I was so grateful because it was also a non-profit. I probably learned so many skills that I could apply to this job I didn’t necessarily have before. Just the behind the scenes stuff, the QuickBooks, the budgets, and managing a non-profit was extremely helpful and then also applying my video experience to the job as well. Filming and creating events and learning special effects.
So all of that which at the time was a perfect job for me, but nine years later I felt like I needed a change and so I am going to apply what I learned there and bring it to the Company Theatre. We can offer acting for camera classes and improv for camera classes.
I’ve been on auditions and in commercials. We want to provide those skills to kids who like to act and be on camera. We want them to be able to go into an audition and know how to slay what they are going to be asked to do and be prepared for anything.
I actually started with a class over the summer. Some of the kids were auditioning so they got immediate training for those auditions. When they came back, they would tell the other students that they did just what Michael showed us. I asked if they felt more prepared. Did you do a better job with the audition? Their faces lit up and they said, ‘Absolutely!’ That was a nice thing.
We want to get in touch with the local casting agencies which we already have a good relationship. We want to create a talent database where you can see video auditions and we can send those out so we kind of want to be a bridge between the local movie and theatre scene. We’ll provide students with the training. They’ll have the skills to go out and nail professional auditions and maybe get cast in movies and commercials. We just really want everyone to have new and exciting opportunities to excel in a career in film and theatre if that is something that they are interested in.
SC: Let’s face it – the audition process is the most nerve-wracking and hardest part I think to convey right off the bat because in your head, you are saying,’ I know what I can do for you’ but then you get up there and it is not exactly what you picture.
MH: Having directed before, people come in and they are nervous. The reality is the casting company is nervous and they have roles to fill. So, the second you come in, put them at ease, and they know they have options, they feel better. I always say in my mind when I got into an audition, ‘Here I am! You can relax. I am going to be that person you need.’ I think it’s an interesting way to keep yourself calm to think I am exactly what you need instead of I hope I’m what you need.
SC: I never really thought of it like that.
MH: Think about it. You have a reputation. You have a project. You want to cast the right people because that makes you look good as well. If you find the right people not only are you confident about the project, but it brings excitement.
When I direct a show, I’m not very excited about it until I know who is in it and then I can tailor their performances to their talents. It is such a thrill to watch people blossom.
Please tell me about the projects you are working on now and upcoming projects.
I don’t think I’ll be directing anything for a little bit. I’ll probably take on some projects here and there. I definitely can’t leave that part behind. I’m really going to focus on the video classes. I’ll be working with Christie Reading. She is extremely talented with anything video related. So, I will be teaming up with her teaching improv for camera, acting for camera, and getting people ready for auditions.
We want to nurture and encourage that. That is kind of my goal. It’s to really push people to excel in any way that they can.
SC: You can’t forget about Boston Casting. How convenient is that! There are all kinds of films going on in the state.
MH: Exactly and literally a mile down the road they are making motion pictures. So how can we not be a part of that? They are working on the new Jon Hamm movie in Cohasset. I know Angela at Boston Casting who is an incredible woman and I don’t know how she does everything she does, but with all those films going on, eventually they will run out of actors.
We get casting notices all the time and I’m forwarding them off to everybody I know that I think fits. For example, I sent a buddy of mine a notice yesterday. They were looking for an actual butcher with acting experience and I happen to know a butcher with acting experience. I’m thinking he might get it.
SC: I know. Some of the requirements are so wild.
MH: It’s so specific, but every once in a while I’ll say, ‘Wait a minute, that is me.’
Company Theatre is offering theatre classes in the fall. Click here for the full schedule and upcoming events.
One of the main attractions of virtual concerts is being able to discover new music anywhere in the world.
Inside Copenhagen’s iconic Round Tower that houses a church, library, and an astronomical observatory, three musicians deliver a mesmerizing musical experience as Dreamers Circus. Warmly introduced by violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen, this performance was filmed in Round Tower’s immaculate library as Swarm, a floating exhibit created by female Denmark artists Baskets4Life, contributes to the concert’s surreal setting.
Celebrity Series of Boston welcomes award-winning musical trio Dreamers Circus streaming through Thursday, April 15. The concert premiered as a live streamed concert on Friday, April 9 and includes a Q & A with the group. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Comprised of violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sorensen, pianist and accordionist Nikolaj Busk, and Ale Carr on Nordic Cittern, Dreamers Circus draws from classical, Swedish, and Nordic rhythms to weave a collection of playful, breezy, and mesmerizing selections well suited to the band’s name while providing a haven in this dark time.
Among the many highlights of this performance is the quirky originality and chipper rhythms in their telling song, The World is Waiting from their latest album, White Gold. The sunny piano and whistling medley exudes a lighthearted anticipation of what’s to come. Pentamime delves into hypnotic rhythms, suspense, and building intensity while City Gardens, from their album Rooftop Sessions, offers a fascinating and intricate mix of soothing rhythms, bright notes, as well as haunting, eclectic, and electronic sounds that brings out the song’s unique vibrancy.
Busk introduces Kitchen Stories, a rich number that fluctuates between lively and tranquil while showcasing Sorensen’s nimble artistry with the violin and Busk’s switch to an accordion before joining together for a memorable folk reel.
Hjerter To/Fangden Og Hans Pumpestok has a bright, catchy, and fanciful medley as Busk pulls double duty performing on the piano and the accordion. Introducing what Carr calls “a poor man’s viola,” Carr duets with Sorensen for traditional Swedish song, Folkrothvalsen.
The concert builds to a thrilling finale with A Room in Paris and Prelude to a Song. While A Room in Paris delivers an upbeat and joyful urgency, Prelude to the Sun provides a perfect blend of sonic and dreamlike harmony.
Not to be left out is the engaging and laid back camaraderie between the musicians as they take the audience on an intriguing and inviting musical journey that could suit any musical taste. Celebrity Series of Boston @home presents Dreamers Circus on demand through Thursday, April 15. Click here for more information and tickets.
Celebrity Series of Boston will present their annual Stave Sessions kicking off on Wednesday, April 21. Click here for a closer look at their season and ways to support Celebrity Series of Boston.
The Boston Ballet launched their first virtual production of the year with an optimistic look at 2021 featuring a selection of rarely performed past performances, an exclusive look back at the Boston Ballet on tour, and where they go from here with a sneak peek into a new project scheduled for April 2021.
Opening the program is Derek Dunn, who has a history of wonderful performances including The Nutcracker, Helen Pickett’s Petaland Genius at Play. After an insightful introduction from Boston Ballet’s Artistic Director Mikko Nissenen and Executive Director Max Hodges, He took on a monumental solo dance demonstrating humor, tension, and a wide range of emotions as Auguste in Leonid Yakobson’s rarely performed Vestris. In a powered wig and meticulously-detailed Founders garment by Robert Perdziola, Dunn is madcap and witty to a rousing applause, taking on a dance that Mikhail Baryshnikov immortalized. A particular highlight was a moment of subtle humor as Dunn leans forward and hesitates like a novice dancer, just learning his steps.
Leonid Yakobson’s Pas de Quatre takes on a lighthearted and fanciful tone as Ji Young Chae, Ekaterine Chubinidze, Maria Baranova, and Nina Matiashvili unite as one in a circular dance adorned in flower crowns and flowing, pristine and romantic tutus. This is another rarely performed piece that demonstrates a sisterhood between this quartet. To a poignant score featuring selections from Norma and picturesque staging by Vera Solovyeva and Nikolay Levitsky, the dancers each showcase their own unique talents and much of it is lively, elegant, and charming.
Love takes many shapes in Leonid Yakobson’s Rodin in three parts. It explores each stage of love from first glimpse to passion and it is captivating to see each part come to life. Sun Woo Lee and Abigail Merlis have playful chemistry as they lean into each other and Abigail smiles as he attempts a kiss. To Debussy’s classic score, Clair de Lune, Maria Alvarez and Alec Roberts depict the sweet joy and rapture of love as they move in unison in shyness and jubilance. Another highlight was Emily Entingh as she leans back into Michael Ryan and he lifts her up in admiration.
Look Back Focus Forward also reveals exclusive touring footage and Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissenen and principal dancer Lia Cirio share in depth the Boston Ballet’s most exciting and extraordinary experiences on tour and the significance in touring once again. One of their favorite experiences was premiering Jiri Kylian’s controversial Bella Figura at Lincoln Center in New York City for the Boston Ballet’s 50th anniversary. Bella Figura is best witnessed to fully take in its daring, haunting, and mysterious subtlety.
The Boston Ballet also offers a sneak peek into an entirely new and innovative virtual production helmed by renowned international choreographer Ken Ossola that will soon premiere in April 15-25 2021.
BB@yourhome’s Look Back Focus Forward continues streaming through Sunday, January 31. Click here for more information and tickets. The Boston Ballet celebrates the work of Jorma Elo in February. Click here to see the BB@yourhome’s entire virtual schedule.
Moliere in the Park begs this question while addressing gender stereotypes and takes an at times tongue in cheek look at what makes a good wife in The School for Wives, a classic comedy by French playwright Moliere first making its stage debut in 1662. Translated by Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Wilbur with French subtitles, this virtual romantic comedy in five acts has plenty of twists and turns on the road to love and made its live streaming debut on October 24 with the recording available through October 28 on Moliere in the Park’s YouTube channel.
Moliere in the Park is dedicated to inclusive, just, and free theatre. Click here for more information.
Set in Brooklyn, NY, Moliere in the Park’s The School for Wives uses its creative technical wizardry to meet Covid-19 standards with enhanced, virtual sets by Lina Younes transporting actors from a regal city garden to a carefully-detailed bedroom to an inviting cafe. At one point, it also gives the illusion that the characters are all together. Ari Fulton’s colorful costumes stay faithful to the time period while providing a certain modern edge.
Directed insightfully by Lucie Tiberghien, ‘The School of Wives’ is punctuated by its intriguing and catchy dialogue as well as its flipped gender roles. Older and wealthy Arnolphe (Tonya Pinkins) thought he has his love life figured out until Horace (Kaliswa Brewster) makes him rethink his road to love with sweet and virtuous Agnes (Mirirai Sithole). Each character is well developed, but what truly shines is the fleshed out philosophies and misconceptions of what makes a good woman and a good wife while exemplifying what truly makes a good man and husband.
Tony Pinkins skillfully depicts the well-spoken and arrogant Arnolphe as a myriad of emotions cross Pinkins face in a single scene. From a biting temper to soft chuckling to a Cheshire smile, Pinkins seamlessly illustrates Arnolphe’s constant inner conflict. Ever the focused manipulator, Arnolphe’s vibrant scene-stealing gravitas keeps you engaged no matter how complicated his situation becomes.
Kaliswa Brewster’s thousand-watt smile brings glowing charisma to young Horace, his youth shining through his outspoken candidness and confidence. Pinkins and Brewster are best as they hide their veiled intentions from each other, carefully holding all their cards at bay.
Virtue takes form in Mirirai Sithole as Agnes, a wide-eyed, sympathetic creature who hides a secret. Sithole’s carefully delivered dialogue and angelic, learned mannerisms keeps her fascinating and complicated in a demure pink headpiece and dress.
Peasants Georgette (Tamara Sevunts) and Alain (Corey Tazmania) offer comic relief as frenzied servants of Arnolphe. Anxious, obedient, and scrambling to meet Arnolphe’s demands, they are a fanatical and sympathetic pair whose often bewildered expressions makes one think they may have just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Moliere in the Park’s The School for Wives takes an enlightened look at love while the play unquestionably sets the foundation for today’s romantic comedy tropes. Its rich, inherent message never lacks humor or sincerity when it comes to the unpredictable path to true love.
Dan has a complicated relationship with his estranged family.
Directed by Christian Parker and written by playwright and actor Dan O’Brien, Dan embarks on more than just a spiritual journey in The House in Scarsdale: a memoir for the stage. The House in Scarsdale is the third play within Potomac Theatre Project(PTP/NYC’s) virtual series that has been running each weekend from September 24 through Sunday, October 18.
In what can be described as a play within a prospective play, The House in Scarsdale visits the darkest of dysfunction as Dan, a journalist, visits various family members and others to learn more about his family’s past for his upcoming autobiographical play. Audiences travel alongside Dan on his journey from the Garden State Parkway to as far as Europe as he investigates a possible family secret. What makes this show unique is not only is it a mystery, but as the details unfold, how much of the truth do you really want to know about your family? Every family has their problems, but some secrets cannot be fathomed.
The House in Scarsdale stars the show’s own playwright Dan O’Brien as Dan and Alex Draper portrays several dynamic characters throughout the production. Draper seamlessly sinks right into each role, navigating an assortment of colorful characters from Dan’s resentful grandmother to his eccentric uncle. Draper is expressive and spirited, clearly enjoying each transition. His conversations with O’Brien have moments of dark humor, relatable family banter, and a good dose of stark, stirring honesty.
The show is figuratively and literally on a journey to learn more about Dan’s troubled family, a family so dysfunctional that poor Dan has been cast out of his family circle hence its ironic opening quote by John Cheever, ‘Come back, come back, my wretched, feeble and unwanted child.’ Dan understandably wants to know why. As Dan’s extended family recall his family’s wild tendencies and various psychoses, Dan’s low key and unassuming demeanor makes one think that perhaps he has been through much more than he lets on.
Dan is a quiet, inquisitive soul and depicts his emotional detachment with a skilled subtlety. His conflicted nature between trepidation and yearning is fascinating as he ventures deeper into his family history becoming so invested and anxious about what he might find, he even visits a psychic. Some of his family recollections are universal and lighthearted and every family has a degree of unhealthy dysfunction, but other memories are dreadfully concerning.
So, as some answers come to light and more questions arise, how much is Dan like his family and how much of the story can be trusted? The House in Scarsdale lures you in and leaves you engrossed in its outcome, hoping for a light at the end of this tunnel.
Potomac Theatre Project or PTC/NYC is located at 330 West 16th Street in New York City. Click here for more information and how to support PTP/NYC’s current and upcoming productions.
Director, executive producer, writer, and narrator Christian Taylor explores the complicated road to forgiveness in her moving D-Day documentary, The Girl Who Wore Freedom which made its US Premiere at the Boston Film Festival. This extraordinary film provides a unique perspective on D-Day on June 6, 1944 through the eyes of a variety of groups associated with D-Day including citizens of Normandy who were children when the bombs dropped. 20,000 French civilians were killed on D-Day. Taylor narrates this film as an awed spectator and tourist as she invites D-Day survivors to recall their experiences while she demonstrates the paradoxical ways veterans are treated in Normandy than they are in the United States.
The Girl Who Wore Freedom’s co-producer Flo Boucherie is the symbolic Normandy girl that inspired the film’s title. She has a particular tie to D-Day partly because her parents were D-Day survivors when they were children. Her mother worked with the veterans, made Flo’s dress, and participated in the D-Day ceremonies.
Citizens of Normandy, historical representatives, medics, and veterans describe the impact and the dynamic experiences they had from a Normand child’s encounter with an American veteran who inspired him to never start smoking to trading shoes for eggs to harrowing stories of a civilian who got shot and the museum that resulted from it. It also recalls some of the significant and surprising events that occurred after D-Day and how perspective changes over the years as generations look back.
Despite its serious material, the film is not without its lighthearted moments. It is about trauma, heartache, and harrowing loss, but also about liberation, love, friendship, and compassion. What unfolds is a testament to the power of healing and forgiveness, not lost on anyone who has been at war.
Watching this film is an eye-opening experience of one of the most harrowing events in world history. Its emotional complexity may leave some conflicted of what should come out of the atrocities of war.
The Girl Who Wore Freedom has been released at a pivotal time in the United States and the world with a sorely needed, universal, and thought-provoking message. It encourages you to reflect inwardly and empathize with one another’s struggles. The Girl Who Wore Freedom will unexpectedly move you to tears and make you grateful for the experience.
The Girl Who Wore Freedom is currently touring the film festival circuit nationwide. Click here to see where The Girl Who Wore Freedom will be shown next and here for more about this year’s Boston Film Festival and future updates.
The Boston Film Festival offered an option to see scheduled screenings of select films at the stellar Showplace Icon Theatre. Located at the Boston Seaport and conveniently located at the Courthouse stop on the Silver Line, The Showplace Icon Theatre features state-of-the-art stadium seating with plush reclining chairs, a beverage holder, and a place for your popcorn. Click here for a closer look at this amazing theatre and here for more information and tickets.
No matter what the circumstances, it is not easy dealing with mental illness, especially if it is a parent. However, that is not the crux of the US Premiere of Paper Spiders, a coming-of-age tale about a teenager named Melanie portrayed with endearing maturity by Stefania LeVie Owen, and her relationship with her widowed mother Dawn, portrayed masterfully by Lili Taylor. They are a fractured but seemingly happy family coming to terms with loss and attempting a new beginning.
Set in Syracuse, NY, The film picks right up with relatable mother-daughter chatter at a pivotal time in Melanie’s life as they tour a college Melanie is interested in attending. Their sweet conversation makes it easy to see their close relationship, but later when their neighbor hits a tree in their front yard, what ensues is nothing Melanie could have ever imagined.
Each member of this compelling cast becomes more complex as the tale progresses, led by Lili Taylor as Melanie’s widowed and troubled mother, Dawn. Taylor is no stranger to quirky characters and her usual odd charm shines through as Melanie’s talkative and anxious mother. With a particular talent for exuding fear in her eyes, Taylor evokes sympathy and dismay as Dawn transforms from a concerned mother to living her life with one eye open, her vulnerability palpable as she struggles to see things clearly.
Stefania LeVie Owen is wonderful as responsible, cautious, and practical Melanie as she struggles to achieve a nearly impossible balance between being a teenager and handling her mother’s increasingly concerning episodes. What makes this struggle more poignant is the natural chemistry between Owen and Taylor who exude as much ease as they do strain. This escalating tension mounts in quick paces as viewed through Owen’s innocent and alarmed perspective.
Peyton List, seen more recently as Tory in Netflix’s popular Cobra Kai series, is a welcome addition as Lacy, Melanie’s fun-loving and promiscuous best friend. Serious and quiet, Melanie and Lacy’s contrasting personalities offer a break from the film’s serious nature. Ian Nelson is charismatic as Melanie’s good humored, persistent, and wealthy classmate Daniel. Nelson and Owen are charming together and also contribute to some of the film’s lighter moments until life inevitably gets more complicated.
Director and writer Inon Shampanier and his wife and writer Natalie Shampanier create a beautiful blend of funny moments and engaging montages with a deeper look at Dawn and Melanie’s daunting reality.
After all, mental illness can become a roller coaster of emotions such as grief, anger, paranoia, loneliness, and anxiety, but the crux of Paper Spiders isn’t any of these things. It’s about the struggle through this unpredictable journey with those you love with understanding, ever holding on to hope. Paper Spiders never loses sight of that.
Paper Spiders is currently touring the film festival circuit nationwide. Click here to see where Paper Spiders will be shown next and here for more about this year’s Boston Film Festival and future updates.